FY’16 Defense Spending Bill Calls for Reducing Civilian Workforce

Budget constraints will force the Defense Department to curtail civilian hiring this year as the fiscal 2016 omnibus spending package calls for $250 million in cuts intended to streamline DOD headquarters staffing and improve estimates of how large its civilian workforce should be.

Streamlining will hit the Air Force operations and maintenance workforce the hardest, with lawmakers slashing $110 million from that account. The Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Security Service and many other agencies also will need to absorb significant cutbacks in their workforces, reported Federal News Radio.

During two Senate Armed Services Committee hearings last fall, experts said DOD is getting less bang for its buck. The joint staff has expanded to more than 4,000 employees, the office of the secretary of Defense to 5,000 and the combatant commands have grown to more than 38,000, said Michèle Flournoy, a former DOD undersecretary for policy.

In August Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work issued a memo requiring major DOD headquarters activities to plan for a 25 percent reduction in funding for fiscal years 2017 to 2020, effectively extending a cost-cutting initiative the department launched in 2013.

“There’s been a broad consensus that particularly in the last six to eight years there has been a lot of duplications of effort,” said Katherine Blakeley, a budget research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“It’s really hard to figure out where DOD is going to [cut] because it requires getting into the nitty-gritty of every single office and a lot of ways it’s basically a deep dive into a potential reorganization or restructuring from the ground up. … One of the things Congress has complained about in the past in particular has been that you cut staff and headquarters but [the staff] ends up getting shuffled around somewhere else,” she told Federal News Radio.

The appropriations bill also calls for more oversight over DOD’s process for estimating the number of civilian full-time equivalents (FTE) required.

“It basically says you have more FTE slots on the book than you are filling,” Blakeley said.

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